By Jason KUROSU
Since his appearance in 2012 and subsequent forays into Glendale, Meatball the bear has become a popular figure, embraced by locals and animal advocates alike. Not only is Meatball the centerpiece for Glendale’s float in this year’s Rose Parade, but Lions, Tigers & Bears, a nonprofit animal sanctuary which Meatball calls home, is raising money to construct a second bear habitat in order to house the six bears currently residing there, plus four more bears expected sometime next year.
In honor of Meatball, Lions, Tigers & Bears, with the City of Glendale, held a meatball tasting competition at Deukmejian Park pitting seven local restaurants (Casa Cordoba, Far Niente, Frank’s Famous, Giuseppe’s, Mario’s Deli and Wooden Fork) against each other for the unofficial title of most delicious meatball in the land. For a $20 donation, attendees were privy to meatballs and other appetizers and voted for their favorites, ultimately endorsing Montrose restaurant Giuseppe’s as the crafters of the finest meatballs that day.
The event was intended to raise money for the new bear habitat, located in Alpine, Calif. Lions, Tigers & Bears is hoping to raise $80,000 to fund the new habitat, which will cost roughly $300,000 to build.
According to Dawn Gibbs of Lions, Tigers & Bears, the decision to create a second bear habitat stemmed from a need for more open space with the planned addition of four bears.
“Just like when you have a pet, taking care of that animal should be a lifetime commitment,” said Gibbs. “We will not take a bear unless we’re sure we can give the bear a lifetime commitment.”
Meatball currently lives in a temporary habitat because the existing four-acre bear habitat was originally built to house four bears before Meatball and Maddie, a 390-pound bear from Ohio, arrived. There, the bears and 16 other species of animals receive food, shelter and medical care.
Bobbi Brink, founder of Lions, Tigers & Bears, said that in addition to the funding, it would be at least three more months before any construction could begin on the new habitat due to pending permit approvals.
The event also featured a cake cutting, with the cake bearing the design of Glendale’s float. The illustration, following Glendale’s theme of “Let’s Be Neighbors,” depicts Meatball emerging from a garbage can (a popular food venue of choice amongst bears) while surrounded by animals, a representation of Meatball’s dual relationship with humans and fellow wildlife animals.
A raffle was also held to determine the winner of two tickets to ride Glendale’s float during the Rose Parade. Jennifer Cashland won the raffle, but was not available to claim her prize.
Anyone interested in donating money for the new bear habitat may do so by visiting http://www.lionstigersandbears.org.